How To Craft Impactful Stories For Successful Screenplays


Humanity has enjoyed storytelling  since time began. It is the most powerful and enduring cultural tool. Stories not only inform and entertain us, they also allow us to process our deepest thoughts and emotions.

If you want to learn how to write a movie script, every screenwriter needs to understand not only the structure, but the purpose of story.

Story is the bedrock of great screenwriting

As a vital form of communication, stories must be evocative. Audiences must have some sort of emotional, physical, intellectual or spiritual reaction. Stories stimulate visual, cognitive and behavioral responses. In many respects, how something is said is more important than what is being said. This is so because stories tap deeply into our subconscious minds, especially when we can directly relate them to our personal life experiences.

A strong story gives screenwriters the basics of writing a screenplay

We imbibe information better when it is connected to an emotional response. Powerful emotions will always generate better stories than script complex plot gimmicks.

Here are some elements of successful stories to teach you how to write a screenplay:

PURPOSE

This relates to the overall story concept and its reason to exist.

What is the central message? What specifically do you want to say? Is your message presented in an understandable form? How will your audience’s lives be enriched after experiencing a story?

PROBLEM

This is critical to a story’s purpose. Why does this story need to be told? The problem sparks the conflict which involves two or more characters (or viewpoints) battling it out for a solution. The problem and its corresponding solution must be transferable to your audience’s lives to be relevant. Otherwise, it’s little more than academic information.

PULSE

This is the emotional through line of every successful story. Stories become even more powerful when they tap into our four primal emotions:

  • HAPPINESS
  • SADNESS
  • FEAR
  • DISGUST

Some psychologists believe there are five secondary human emotions which evolved through social interactions. These are:

  • JOY
  • LOVE
  • GRIEF
  • ANGER
  • SHAME
  • SURPRISE
  • GUILT

PEOPLE

This relates to your characters, starting with your hero. They need to identify the problem (WHAT), a reason to act (WHY) a vision and a course of action (HOW). In order to complete the spectrum of characters, you need a:

  • HERO (protagonist)
  • SUPPORTER (ally)
  • ENEMY (villain/ antagonist)
  • VICTIM (to create empathy and create a reason to act)

At our deepest human level, we each identify with one of these four key character types.

PROCESS

This relates to how a story is told. On a functional level, this includes genre and theme.

Process also demonstrates the conflict between the fear of letting go of the pain of the past and the uncertainty of the future. The story must also find a balance between logic and emotion. The constant tug of war between the PAST & FUTURE and HEART & HEAD will force a change in the story status, and ultimately, a resolution (solution).

PINSTRIPES

This relates to the style of story execution such as pacing, dialog, design, setting and tone. These elements never relate to the core story being told, but rather how it’s told.

Since so many of you have been bugging me to read your screenplays, I’m offering my script consulting services through my Script Firm shingle to help jumpstart your screenwriting.

Click here, to find out how to submit.

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